The Best Time to Drink Caffeine, Based on Your Cycle

It’s that time of year—steaming mugs of coffee are a daily delight when the weather’s chilly (or let’s be honest, any time.) For many of us, caffeine fuels endless responsibilities: email replies, work projects, house chores, school drop-offs, etc. And while coffee is full of benefits, it’s easy to overdo it. Especially when it comes to hormone health. If you think you’re too reliant on your cuppa (or three), don’t fret. Fortunately, it’s possible to enjoy your coffee while supporting hormonal balance. Say hello to cycle syncing caffeine.

Ready to sip strategically? With our hormone-friendly guide, you’ll learn how to complement—not clash!—your caffeine habit with your hormones. Calling all coffee connoisseurs: this one’s for you.

Featured image from our interview with Inge Theron by Teal Thomsen.


Edie Horstman

Edie is the founder of nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie. With her background and expertise, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness.

Have Your Caffeine and Drink It, Too

What if you could maximize your caffeine consumption while minimizing potential disruptions to your hormones? Luckily, it’s feasible. And even better news—it’s not rocket science. Cycle syncing caffeine, like your other daily habits, is a method to work in tandem with your body’s natural rhythms. Harnessing a few simple principles, you can have your caffeine and drink it, too. In other words, there’s no need to forego your coffee fix. Rather, it’s about adjusting your intake based on monthly hormonal fluctuations.

Woman reading by fireplace - cycle sync caffeine

Cycle Sync for Hormone Balance

Before we dive into all things caffeine, what is cycle syncing? In essence, it involves aligning various aspects of your life—diet, exercise, and self-care—with the natural fluctuations of your menstrual cycle. This practice recognizes that each phase (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal) is characterized by hormonal shifts. And these shifts impact everything from energy levels to mood. But by tailoring your activities and habits, you can reap multiple rewards. Think: balanced reproductive health, minimal PMS, and a greater connection with your body.

If you’re new to this concept, welcome! We have a detailed cycle syncing calendar to make this holistic practice a breeze.

Woman writing_cycle syncing caffeine

How does caffeine impact hormones?

The link between caffeine and hormones is complicated. It’s not as black-and-white as drinking caffeine or abstaining completely. We are all bio-individuals, after all! Caffeine impacts each of us differently. However, observational studies indicate the following:

Caffeine and cortisol: Caffeine can temporarily increase cortisol, our stress hormone. While a moderate rise (in the morning) is part of the body’s natural response, excessive caffeine intake may lead to prolonged elevated cortisol levels, potentially impacting hormonal balance.

Caffeine and insulin: Caffeine can also affect insulin sensitivity (aka blood sugar balance). This is particularly relevant for those with PCOS, as insulin resistance is a common condition.

Caffeine and estrogen: Battling estrogen dominance? If so, you may want to aim for minimal-to-moderate caffeine consumption. After all, too much caffeine can affect estrogen levels, potentially exacerbating hormonal imbalances—especially for Asian women. One study shows that higher caffeine consumption is associated with higher estrogen levels in women of Asian descent.

If you have a hormonal imbalance, should you avoid caffeine?

Depends. Although most experts suggest minimizing caffeine to alleviate hormonal imbalance symptoms, moderate daily consumption (1-2 cups of brewed coffee) is generally considered safe. In other words, despite individual responses to caffeine, many people can enjoy moderate amounts without adverse effects. If you’re actively trying to balance hormones, or have specific health concerns, monitor your caffeine intake with a healthcare professional.

Shanika Hillocks_cycle sync caffeine

What is the best time of the month to drink caffeine?

Assuming caffeine consumption is on the docket—and hormone balance is the goal—let’s dive into cycle syncing caffeine. In many ways, the first half of your cycle (the follicular phase), is an ideal time to drink java. During this phase, estrogen levels are on the rise. And this can contribute to better tolerance and reduced sensitivity to caffeine. Said differently: if you have a normal follicular phase, go for it.

Conversely, during the second half of the menstrual cycle—the luteal phase—estrogen decreases while progesterone rises. Because of this, some women experience heightened sensitivity to caffeine during this phase. This can lead to potential disruptions in sleep patterns or increased feelings of anxiety.

Play around with adjusting your caffeine consumption throughout the month. You may be pleasantly surprised by the benefits of limiting your intake before your period starts.

Simone Boyce coffee_cycle sync caffeine

Caffeine Consumption, Broken Down By Phase

To take things one step further, below are general suggestions for caffeine consumption during each phase of the menstrual cycle.

  1. Menstrual phase (Days 1-5): Generally speaking, hormone levels are low during this phase. It’s a good time for regular caffeine consumption—if you’re used to it. However, some women experience increased sensitivity to caffeine during their periods. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
  2. Follicular phase (Days 6-14): As mentioned, hormones (particularly estrogen) start to rise during this phase. Therefore, caffeine may have a milder impact on your body’s stress response. It can be a good time for moderate caffeine consumption, as energy levels are likely to be more stable!
  3. Ovulatory phase (Days 15-17): Estrogen peaks during ovulation. Caffeine sensitivity may be lower, and energy levels higher. However, excessive caffeine intake can still contribute to jitteriness or disrupt sleep.
  4. Luteal phase (Days 18-28): As progesterone increases, some women experience heightened sensitivity to caffeine. In fact, symptoms like anxiety or breast tenderness can be exacerbated by excessive caffeine. Now’s the time to opt for lower-caffeine alternatives.
  5. Premenstrual phase (Days 25-28): This phase is characterized by hormonal fluctuations and potential mood changes. Hello, PMS. Consider reducing caffeine or sipping herbal teas before your period starts.
morning routine chemex casa zuma coffee ritual_cycle sync caffeine

Hormone-Loving Ingredients to Add to Your Coffee

How can you further support your hard-working hormones? Drink your coffee after you’ve had a blood sugar-friendly breakfast. Also, make sure your beans are high-quality, organic, and tested for impurities (Purity Coffee is a house fave!). Last but not least, consider adding the following ingredients to your cup:

Collagen

Collagen powder is a great choice to mix into your hot coffee (without altering the flavor or texture). A source of protein, collagen can help reduce caffeine’s impact on insulin and blood sugar levels. 

Full-fat milk or unsweetened plant-based alternative

Opt for full-fat milk or an unsweetened plant-based alternative, like coconut milk. Full-fat options help keep blood sugar stable. Skip the commercial low-fat and artificial creamers. These tend to be highly processed and contain questionable ingredients.

Monk fruit sweetener

Swap teaspoons of refined sugar for monk fruit. This is a natural sweetener with zero calories and a low glycemic index (meaning, it won’t spike blood sugar).

Coconut oil or ghee

Healthy fats can slow down caffeine’s absorption in the digestive system. This gradual release often results in more sustained and stable energy levels, reducing the likelihood of a rapid spike and subsequent crash.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon adds flavor and has potential benefits for insulin sensitivity.

Adaptogens

Consider adding adaptogens, like ashwagandha or maca, for their potential stress-reducing and hormone-balancing properties. Start with a small amount and adjust based on your preference.

Is matcha better than coffee for hormone balance?

Similar to the complex web between caffeine and hormones, comparing matcha to coffee—in terms of hormone balance—is equally nuanced. However, matcha contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes a more gradual release of caffeine. In turn, this can potentially minimize the abrupt spikes and crashes associated with coffee. While some women find matcha gentler on their reproductive system, others tolerate coffee well. At the end of the day, moderation is key, regardless of the source.

Woman writing and drinking coffee.
Image by Jenn Rose Smith

Healthy Coffee Alternatives for a Non-Jittery Boost

For most of us, the morning isn’t complete without the ritual of sipping something warm and caffeinated. But for the sake of hormone health, consider a nourishing swap for your go-to cup of joe.

To ease into drinking less caffeine, first switch to half-caff beans. Love a good latte? Try this Cosmic Cocoa blend from Moon Juice or Renude’s Chagaccino. These contain adaptogens and nutrients to help manage stress. If you relish the flavor of coffee, try Dandy Blend. It has a lovely roasted flavor without the acidity or bitterness of coffee. Happy brewing!

It’s Time to Go After What You Want—an Editor’s 6-Step Guide to Making It Happen

At the start of every new year, I find myself stuck between two opposing approaches. On the one hand, I want a big lofty goal for the months ahead that I can dedicate all my focus to. And on the other, I just want to keep things simple—setting my sights on doing and being better. But this year, I decided to choose a word to guide me in my decision-making and growth across the board: courage. Why courage? Well, candidly, I felt like I lacked a bit of it in 2023. I spent more time second-guessing myself than going for it. And I let the noise in my head take over more than usual. Trust me: that’s not my go-to behavior.

With courage at the forefront, this also got me excited to explore more newness this year. For me, the novelty of trying something new always leads to a boost in serotonin, a spark of curiosity, and a newfound joy and appreciation for being a beginner. Plus, I always leave an experience seeing the world just a little differently. 

Featured image from our interview with Mary Ralph Bradley.

I hope that with a bit of courage, and by opening my heart and mind to new things, I will also inject more fun and play into my life. 

6 Ways I’m Embracing More Courage in 2024

When I thought of the why behind all that I want to invite into my life this year, I leaned into what I felt might be missing. This ensured that the experiences I chose to prioritize felt additive and exploratory. A few things that came to mind:

  • feeling more connected to my community
  • moving my body in a different way
  • disconnecting from my phone to reconnect with something else

But above all, I wanted to get out of the day-to-day rut I’ve been feeling. The only requirement? These had to be fun and solely for myself—not social media or anyone else. Here’s what trying new things in 2024 looks like for me.

Asking for What I Want

This is a hard one to admit, but I struggled here in 2023. And quite frankly, that shocked me. Last year I reverted to old people-pleasing behaviors and one whole year later, I have the clarity on how that both held me back and forced me into playing small. 

This year, I’m going for it. I’ve already started to. Asking for what I need in all aspects of life and putting myself out there for growth. I’m fully aware that may come with rejection, but I truly believe the consequences of not asking are far riskier than any rejection could ever be. 

Practice this in whatever way it aligns for you. It could be asking for a raise, pivoting careers, asking someone on a date, or declaring your needs proudly. Maybe it’s saying no to something or someone even if it’s hard, or saying yes to something even if you’re scared. I know you’ll be so thankful you did. 

Journaling new things to try 2024
Image by Jenn Rose Smith

Writing Poetry

I was struck by a post I saw on Instagram by a writer who said that at the beginning of 2023, they made it a practice to write a poem every day. It was a beautiful goal, and I immediately began researching how I could do the same myself. This is one new thing that I’ve already begun, and while I haven’t hit that daily cadence, I am averaging a poem every other day. It’s been a fun practice to share my thoughts in a completely new format. I’ve written everything from a short rhyme to a haiku, and am even exploring funny, lighter tones as well as the more melancholy and personal. It’s helped me see the world a little differently and expand my own vocabulary. 

I haven’t shared a poem with anyone yet, and I’m not sure that I will. I love that this is something that is just for me. At least for now. 

Pole Dancing

Ever since I saw Dita Von Teese’s burlesque show at the Paramount Theater in Austin last January, I have been so enamored by the feminine and sexy ways she and her troupe moved their bodies. What drew me to pole dancing is its difficulty—it’s a total core and upper body workout, much like aerial silks can be. But it’s also edgy, feminine, sexy, and for the most part (for my purposes), something done solo. 

I’ve told at least seven friends that I’m doing this and they all responded with the same Are you serious? Is this a joke? And then all seven of them promptly asked if they could join me. I think I’m onto something.

I’m inspired by women who aren’t afraid to connect with their bodies in new ways and who bravely lean into feeling sexy and feminine—even if just for themselves. 

Yoga new things to try in 2024.
Image by Riley Blanks Reed

Trying a New Workout Each Week in January

Speaking of being in a rut, my workout routine needs a complete refresh. While I love the workouts I’m currently doing—typically a morning walk around the lake and a bootcamp-style class, I realized my fear of failure is currently keeping me from exploring new forms of movement. But rather than staying stuck in that cycle, I’m springing out of it and making it my mission to move out of any funk or rut.

Plus, if I want to connect with the community in a new way after years of working remotely and feeling a bit stuck inside my place, this is the PERFECT way to be around people once again. 

I’m shifting from What if I hate it or embarrass myself? to What if I love it and find a new way to build strength?

I would love to say that I won’t buy anything for a month or that I’m going to only shop my closet, but I know those sweeping declarations will likely set me up for failure. However, I truly want to shift my consumer behavior to being more responsible both financially and for the environment. My approach: default to second-hand shopping. Austin is home to some incredibly curated consignment shops (looking at you, MOSS), and rather than visit the five rotating websites I always search, I’m turning to some of my favorite consignment shops or friends’ closets.

Building a Vision Board

If you know Camille, you know she’s hosted vision board workshops and designed an at-home kit to build your own. I’ve been a naysayer for years wondering how images on a piece of paper could actually come to life, but after enough friends have preached the power of a board, I’m finally coming around.

There are a few specific things I want to happen this year that I’m acutely focused on. My true hope is that by shifting my outlook and putting positive energy into these intentions, that I can help bring them to fruition. I also feel like at this point, it certainly can’t hurt my chances. 

So, what’s on your list of new things to try in 2024? Is there anything you’re leaning into this year that you’ve never tried? I can’t wait to re-read this article in December and see what’s transpired. I’m excited just thinking about the possibility.

Time to Get Crafty: These 20 Ideas Are Gift-Wrapping Gold

It’s crunch time, you guys! While we’ve been hearing the same thing (start your holiday gift shopping early!), 2023 was when it really counted. Sure, I say that every year, but c’mon—doesn’t it become more and more true? Shipping delays, major trade hubs getting overwhelmed and backed up… nothing seems to change. The past few years have set off a frenzy of frantic gift buying that, this year, hasn’t slowed down. So if you did your holiday shopping in advance, then you’re likely sitting pretty right about now. You might even have the luxury of spending the next few weeks leisurely wrapping presents with your favorite Christmas movies on in the background. If that’s the case for you, get ready for all the best gift wrapping ideas the internet could provide. We’ve rounded up our favorites, and they’re not to be missed.

Featured image from our interview with Devon Liedtke.

20 Gift Wrapping Ideas to Fit Any Present

While I’d consider myself an aesthetically-inclined person, I cannot, repeat CAN-NOT wrap presents to save my life. In the past, I’d try to put together a beautiful present, only to strategically (shamefully) place my presents under the tree so you couldn’t see the taped-together underside. I’ve gotten more efficient in recent years and opted instead for the can’t-mess-it-up gift bag solution. And while that’s definitely helped keep my presents from being an eyesore, I do want to bring a little creativity to my Christmas wrapping.

The good news is, there are plenty of creative ways to add flair to your presents. That’s why we curated this list of gift wrapping ideas to fit any style. There’s minimalist, maximalist, and au natural. There’s colorful, classic, and beautifully craft-inspired. However you want to wrap your presents, this list has it. Scroll through, and be sure to let us know how you plan to wrap your gifts this year. I’ll take all the inspiration I can get.

(Psst… If you haven’t found your gifts yet, check out our roundup of the best last-minute presents for everyone on your list.)

Keep It Simple & Chic

Brown craft paper and a mocha-colored ribbon. Sometimes, the most streamlined options are the chicest. If you’re like me and give a lot of thought to curating your presents under the tree, alternate your ribbons and incorporate a few sage green and black gifts as well.

Devon Liedtke’s Scandinavian Christmas

Baking Soda Clay Gift Wrap Embellishment DIY best gift wrapping ideas

Put Your Pantry Staples to Use

Is your box of baking soda slowly nearing its expiration in the fridge? Put it to good use with this easy creative gift wrap idea! Finish off your baking soda gift toppers with a few foraged branches and boughs and you’ll have a present worthy of its spot beneath the tree.

Baking Soda Clay Gift Wrap Embellishment DIY from Tatertots and Jello

DIY Paper Straw Stars best gift wrapping ideas

Opt for a Peppermint Flair

With just string, straws, and some craft paper, you can make this simple DIY in minutes. It’s a five-step process to craft a star that would be right at home on any of your gifts as well as hanging from your tree. Anything that calls for a little holiday touch, this DIY delivers.

DIY Paper Straw Stars From A Splash of Something

Mini Christmas Tree Gift Wrap best gift wrapping ideas

Bring the Outdoors In

I love incorporating natural elements into my gift wrap. This clever tutorial leans on evergreen cuttings and shrubs (boxwood, rosemary, eucalyptus, cedar, and juniper all work beautifully) to create a seasonally-scented, wrapping wonder. It’s so pretty, your recipient might not be able to open their gift.

Mini Christmas Tree Gift Wrap From A Piece of Rainbow

5 Gift Wrap Ideas for Christmas best gift wrapping ideas

Pile on the Pinecones, Foliage, and Natural Elements

I love pairing neutral paper in either black, white, or a natural hue with jute. It’s easygoing while still feeling special and elevated. Adding pops of color with foliage or sentimental notes or photos adds the little touch of joy and emotion I want all of my presents to bring.

5 Gift Wrap Ideas for Christmas from Burkatron

Pom Pom Gift Wrap best gift wrapping ideas

Pom It Up

I love gift wrapping ideas that look super glamorous without feeling over the top. This checks off both boxes beautifully. All you need for this fun and festive gift wrap is yarn, pom poms, and a few gift tags. Using black and white paper and adding a little sparkle with your ribbon creates an elevated presentation while still looking like it came straight from the heart (because, well, it did).

Pom Pom Gift Wrap from Modern Glam

DIY Sleigh Bell + Mistletoe Present Topper best gift wrapping ideas

Tie on a Little Jingle Jangle

Now here’s what to make if you’re really going for a show-stopping topper. While this DIY is admittedly quite a bit more involved than most others on this list, every single step is worth it to get this final result. The mistletoe is truly a work of art, and you’re going to have to work hard to make sure what’s inside the wrapping lives up to what’s on the outside.

DIY Sleigh Bell + Mistletoe Present Topper from Honestly WTF

Paper Snowflake Gift Topper best gift wrapping ideas

Put Your Paper Snowflakes to Use

I don’t know about you, but in the days leading up to Christmas, you can catch me making all the paper snowflakes my festive heart can handle. While I love sticking them up on windows and using them to decorate all areas of my home, these snowflake present toppers are brilliant. They’re statement-making and modern while still feeling decidedly Christmas-y. You can follow the DIY tutorial here for step-by-step instructions on how to make the most stunning snowflakes. If you’re wrapping with kiddos, this is also a great way to get the whole fam involved.

Paper Snowflake Gift Topper from Giochi di Carta

Wreath Gift Toppers best gift wrapping ideas

Adorn Your Gift With a Wreath

When Christmas comes around, I’m of the opinion that wreaths belong everywhere. On my front door, above the mantle, in every window, and yes, on my presents. These mini wreaths take your present from perfect (because anything that comes from the heart already is) to the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever held in their hands. Gather your greenery (try olive and bay leaves), berries, floral wire, a thick metal wire for the wreath, and a glue gun if you really want to take things to the next level.

Wreath Gift Toppers from Say Yes

DIY Gingerbread Gift Tags best gift wrapping ideas

Add a Little Something Edible

Who wouldn’t love a little sweet treat to go with their gift? These easy-cut-out gingerbread cookies are beyond cute and customize your present with something not only thoughtful but totally gorgeous. Just be sure to bake them no sooner than a day beforehand and keep your presents out of reach of any doggies or curious cats. You want these cookies going to the right mouths.

DIY Gingerbread Gift Tags from Honestly WTF

Navy and Gold Gift Wrap best gift wrapping ideas

Add a Little Glamour and Glitz

Opting for metallics is an easy way to make your present all the more special. I love this combo of glittery gold with just a peek of the deep, saturated navy. Go for a wide ribbon that lets your wrapping paper barely peek through—this one’s all about the bow.

Navy and Gold Gift Wrap from Cox and Cox

Printable Faux Bow Gift Boxes best gift wrapping ideas

Let a Printable Do the Work

A reminder that good things come in small packages. This is a super simple and easy way to create a woodland-like effect for your present. Whether you’re gifting jewelry or something else that’s small, pop it in one of these petite boxes for a surprise anyone on your list will love.

Printable Faux Bow Gift Boxes from Oh Happy Day

DIY Winter Wrapping best gift wrapping ideas

Add a Little Warmth

What’s cuter than tying on a pair of either homemade or thoughtfully-purchased mittens to your present? While it depends on where you live, most people could use a pair of fuzzy and warm gloves. Slip the mitts under a little ribbon and add a small bundle of greenery. There’s nothing more wonderfully wintry than this.

DIY Winter Wrapping from Honestly WTF

Furoshiki

Perfect the Japanese Art of Furoshiki

This is the ultimate way to ensure zero-waste gifting. Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese technique that today, is used to wrap gifts or transport a small present when visiting someone’s home. It’s wonderfully practical and a great sustainable solution to keeping your trash or recycling from piling up with paper on Christmas day. Furoshiki is of course beautiful as well. Gather up vintage or found fabrics and follow this tutorial for everything you need to know to make your perfectly imperfect little bundle.

Furoshiki How-To from Noémie Memories

DIY Sharpie Bow

Trompe-l’oeil Your Bow

This is a great gift wrapping solution for the ribbon-tying averse. Create the optical illusion of a silky bow with a sharpie! We love this idea because not only is it just about as easy as it gets, but if you find yourself short on ribbons, you can pull out a permanent marker and get to work. Get the DIY Sharpie Bow Tutorial here.

DIY Sharpie Bow from Dream Green DIY

DIY Licorice Allsorts Wrapping Paper

Make It Sweet

This one’s for the maximalists among us. If you want a little (or a lot) of color, by all means, go for it. I love the simple, easy impact of a few stripes added to your gift wrap. These boxes boast a whimsical quality that’ll make anyone smile. They’re also wayyyy easier than they look. So grab your scissors and supplies and get crafting.

DIY Licorice Allsorts Wrapping Paper from The House That Lars Built

DIY Wrapping Paper

Unleash Your Inner Matisse

Did you know how easy it is to make your own wrapping paper? Simply break out a big roll of kraft paper, set up your paints, and go for it. Of course, this project is going to require covering up anything you might get paint on (a drop cloth works perfectly), but once you do, there’s no reason to hold back. Paint your heart out, Pollock.

DIY Wrapping Paper from ARTBAR

DIY Stamped Wrapping Paper

Make Your Own Stamps

I love a good hand-stamped paper, but did you know you can make it with things you already have in your house? This clever DIY uses everything from popsicle sticks to wine bottles to ice cube trays (yes, really!) to create one-of-a-kind patterns and designs. If it’s a lovingly homemade look you’re going for, try this.

DIY Stamped Wrapping Paper from Paper & Stitch

DIY Gift Tag Stickers

Customize a Cute Message

While there’s a couple of steps needed to make these gift tags, they’re all easy to do. Type out a little message in Photoshop and print out your tags on peel and stick posters. Peel and stick onto your present, add a little ribbon and maybe some greenery, and you’re all good to go.

DIY Gift Tag Stickers from Home Oh My

Neon Color Block Gift Tags

Nail It With Neon

While Christmas means there’s plenty of red, green, silver, and gold to go around, I’m into going for the unexpected and adding a pop of neon under the tree. These gift tags are the easiest way to customize your gift and will make anyone feel appreciated when they see the little bit of extra effort you put in to make their present special. You can color block your gift tags or add a polka dot pattern. For all the instructions, go ahead and click through.

Neon Color Block Gift Tags from Paper & Stitch

This post was originally published on December 17, 2018, and has since been updated.

Time to Get Crafty: These 20 Ideas Are Gift-Wrapping Gold

It’s crunch time, you guys! While we’ve been hearing the same thing (start your holiday gift shopping early!), 2023 was when it really counted. Sure, I say that every year, but c’mon—doesn’t it become more and more true? Shipping delays, major trade hubs getting overwhelmed and backed up… nothing seems to change. The past few years have set off a frenzy of frantic gift buying that, this year, hasn’t slowed down. So if you did your holiday shopping in advance, then you’re likely sitting pretty right about now. You might even have the luxury of spending the next few weeks leisurely wrapping presents with your favorite Christmas movies on in the background. If that’s the case for you, get ready for all the best gift wrapping ideas the internet could provide. We’ve rounded up our favorites, and they’re not to be missed.

Featured image from our interview with Devon Liedtke.

20 Best Gift Wrapping Ideas to Fit Any Present

While I’d consider myself an aesthetically-inclined person, I cannot, repeat CAN-NOT wrap presents to save my life. In the past, I’d try to put together a beautiful present, only to strategically (shamefully) place my presents under the tree so you couldn’t see the taped-together underside. I’ve gotten more efficient in recent years and opted instead for the can’t-mess-it-up gift bag solution. And while that’s definitely helped keep my presents from being an eyesore, I do want to bring a little creativity to my Christmas wrapping.

The good news is, there are plenty of creative ways to add flair to your presents. That’s why we curated this list of gift wrapping ideas to fit any style. There’s minimalist, maximalist, and au natural. There’s colorful, classic, and beautifully craft-inspired. However you want to wrap your presents, this list has it. Scroll through, and be sure to let us know how you plan to wrap your gifts this year. I’ll take all the inspiration I can get.

(Psst… If you haven’t found your gifts yet, check out our roundup of the best last-minute presents for everyone on your list.)

Keep It Simple & Chic

Brown craft paper and a mocha-colored ribbon. Sometimes, the most streamlined options are the chicest. If you’re like me and give a lot of thought to curating your presents under the tree, alternate your ribbons and incorporate a few sage green and black gifts as well.

Devon Liedtke’s Scandinavian Christmas

Baking Soda Clay Gift Wrap Embellishment DIY best gift wrapping ideas

Put Your Pantry Staples to Use

Is your box of baking soda slowly nearing its expiration in the fridge? Put it to good use with this easy creative gift wrap idea! Finish off your baking soda gift toppers with a few foraged branches and boughs and you’ll have a present worthy of its spot beneath the tree.

Baking Soda Clay Gift Wrap Embellishment DIY from Tatertots and Jello

DIY Paper Straw Stars best gift wrapping ideas

Opt for a Peppermint Flair

With just string, straws, and some craft paper, you can make this simple DIY in minutes. It’s a five-step process to craft a star that would be right at home on any of your gifts as well as hanging from your tree. Anything that calls for a little holiday touch, this DIY delivers.

DIY Paper Straw Stars From A Splash of Something

Mini Christmas Tree Gift Wrap best gift wrapping ideas

Bring the Outdoors In

I love incorporating natural elements into my gift wrap. This clever tutorial leans on evergreen cuttings and shrubs (boxwood, rosemary, eucalyptus, cedar, and juniper all work beautifully) to create a seasonally-scented, wrapping wonder. It’s so pretty, your recipient might not be able to open their gift.

Mini Christmas Tree Gift Wrap From A Piece of Rainbow

5 Gift Wrap Ideas for Christmas best gift wrapping ideas

Pile on the Pinecones, Foliage, and Natural Elements

I love pairing neutral paper in either black, white, or a natural hue with jute. It’s easygoing while still feeling special and elevated. Adding pops of color with foliage or sentimental notes or photos adds the little touch of joy and emotion I want all of my presents to bring.

5 Gift Wrap Ideas for Christmas from Burkatron

Pom Pom Gift Wrap best gift wrapping ideas

Pom It Up

I love gift wrapping ideas that look super glamorous without feeling over the top. This checks off both boxes beautifully. All you need for this fun and festive gift wrap is yarn, pom poms, and a few gift tags. Using black and white paper and adding a little sparkle with your ribbon creates an elevated presentation while still looking like it came straight from the heart (because, well, it did).

Pom Pom Gift Wrap from Modern Glam

DIY Sleigh Bell + Mistletoe Present Topper best gift wrapping ideas

Tie on a Little Jingle Jangle

Now here’s what to make if you’re really going for a show-stopping topper. While this DIY is admittedly quite a bit more involved than most others on this list, every single step is worth it to get this final result. The mistletoe is truly a work of art, and you’re going to have to work hard to make sure what’s inside the wrapping lives up to what’s on the outside.

DIY Sleigh Bell + Mistletoe Present Topper from Honestly WTF

Paper Snowflake Gift Topper best gift wrapping ideas

Put Your Paper Snowflakes to Use

I don’t know about you, but in the days leading up to Christmas, you can catch me making all the paper snowflakes my festive heart can handle. While I love sticking them up on windows and using them to decorate all areas of my home, these snowflake present toppers are brilliant. They’re statement-making and modern while still feeling decidedly Christmas-y. You can follow the DIY tutorial here for step-by-step instructions on how to make the most stunning snowflakes. If you’re wrapping with kiddos, this is also a great way to get the whole fam involved.

Paper Snowflake Gift Topper from Giochi di Carta

Wreath Gift Toppers best gift wrapping ideas

Adorn Your Gift With a Wreath

When Christmas comes around, I’m of the opinion that wreaths belong everywhere. On my front door, above the mantle, in every window, and yes, on my presents. These mini wreaths take your present from perfect (because anything that comes from the heart already is) to the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever held in their hands. Gather your greenery (try olive and bay leaves), berries, floral wire, a thick metal wire for the wreath, and a glue gun if you really want to take things to the next level.

Wreath Gift Toppers from Say Yes

DIY Gingerbread Gift Tags best gift wrapping ideas

Add a Little Something Edible

Who wouldn’t love a little sweet treat to go with their gift? These easy-cut-out gingerbread cookies are beyond cute and customize your present with something not only thoughtful but totally gorgeous. Just be sure to bake them no sooner than a day beforehand and keep your presents out of reach of any doggies or curious cats. You want these cookies going to the right mouths.

DIY Gingerbread Gift Tags from Honestly WTF

Navy and Gold Gift Wrap best gift wrapping ideas

Add a Little Glamour and Glitz

Opting for metallics is an easy way to make your present all the more special. I love this combo of glittery gold with just a peek of the deep, saturated navy. Go for a wide ribbon that lets your wrapping paper barely peek through—this one’s all about the bow.

Navy and Gold Gift Wrap from Cox and Cox

Printable Faux Bow Gift Boxes best gift wrapping ideas

Let a Printable Do the Work

A reminder that good things come in small packages. This is a super simple and easy way to create a woodland-like effect for your present. Whether you’re gifting jewelry or something else that’s small, pop it in one of these petite boxes for a surprise anyone on your list will love.

Printable Faux Bow Gift Boxes from Oh Happy Day

DIY Winter Wrapping best gift wrapping ideas

Add a Little Warmth

What’s cuter than tying on a pair of either homemade or thoughtfully-purchased mittens to your present? While it depends on where you live, most people could use a pair of fuzzy and warm gloves. Slip the mitts under a little ribbon and add a small bundle of greenery. There’s nothing more wonderfully wintry than this.

DIY Winter Wrapping from Honestly WTF

Furoshiki

Perfect the Japanese Art of Furoshiki

This is the ultimate way to ensure zero-waste gifting. Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese technique that today, is used to wrap gifts or transport a small present when visiting someone’s home. It’s wonderfully practical and a great sustainable solution to keeping your trash or recycling from piling up with paper on Christmas day. Furoshiki is of course beautiful as well. Gather up vintage or found fabrics and follow this tutorial for everything you need to know to make your perfectly imperfect little bundle.

Furoshiki How-To from Noémie Memories

DIY Sharpie Bow

Trompe-l’oeil Your Bow

This is a great gift wrapping solution for the ribbon-tying averse. Create the optical illusion of a silky bow with a sharpie! We love this idea because not only is it just about as easy as it gets, but if you find yourself short on ribbons, you can pull out a permanent marker and get to work. Get the DIY Sharpie Bow Tutorial here.

DIY Sharpie Bow from Dream Green DIY

DIY Licorice Allsorts Wrapping Paper

Make It Sweet

This one’s for the maximalists among us. If you want a little (or a lot) of color, by all means, go for it. I love the simple, easy impact of a few stripes added to your gift wrap. These boxes boast a whimsical quality that’ll make anyone smile. They’re also wayyyy easier than they look. So grab your scissors and supplies and get crafting.

DIY Licorice Allsorts Wrapping Paper from The House That Lars Built

DIY Wrapping Paper

Unleash Your Inner Matisse

Did you know how easy it is to make your own wrapping paper? Simply break out a big roll of kraft paper, set up your paints, and go for it. Of course, this project is going to require covering up anything you might get paint on (a drop cloth works perfectly), but once you do, there’s no reason to hold back. Paint your heart out, Pollock.

DIY Wrapping Paper from ARTBAR

DIY Stamped Wrapping Paper

Make Your Own Stamps

I love a good hand-stamped paper, but did you know you can make it with things you already have in your house? This clever DIY uses everything from popsicle sticks to wine bottles to ice cube trays (yes, really!) to create one-of-a-kind patterns and designs. If it’s a lovingly homemade look you’re going for, try this.

DIY Stamped Wrapping Paper from Paper & Stitch

DIY Gift Tag Stickers

Customize a Cute Message

While there’s a couple of steps needed to make these gift tags, they’re all easy to do. Type out a little message in Photoshop and print out your tags on peel and stick posters. Peel and stick onto your present, add a little ribbon and maybe some greenery, and you’re all good to go.

DIY Gift Tag Stickers from Home Oh My

Neon Color Block Gift Tags

Nail It With Neon

While Christmas means there’s plenty of red, green, silver, and gold to go around, I’m into going for the unexpected and adding a pop of neon under the tree. These gift tags are the easiest way to customize your gift and will make anyone feel appreciated when they see the little bit of extra effort you put in to make their present special. You can color block your gift tags or add a polka dot pattern. For all the instructions, go ahead and click through.

Neon Color Block Gift Tags from Paper & Stitch

This post was originally published on December 17, 2018, and has since been updated.

Soup Lovers, Gather—These Are Our Coziest Recipes of All Time

This fall, we’re celebrating our love for cozy, nourishing soups with our latest series: “Soup Sunday.” Join us on Instagram where we’ll be making our favorite recipes to make your Sunday meal prep a cherished ritual. Watch for ingredients to go live each Friday ahead of the weekend.

All of us at Camille Styles have a bit of a soup obsession. From creamy to spicy, wholesome to hearty, our soup repertoire has just about everything you could want to celebrate the cozy season. To make things easier for everyone, we’ve narrowed down our best soups of all time for easy comfort food cooking.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Our Best Soup Recipes to Celebrate Cozy Season

Maybe you’re a fan of a classic tomato soup with a buttery grilled cheese sandwich, or perhaps you prefer a hearty chicken tortilla soup filled with tons of protein and spice. Whatever you’re craving, this list has it all. So grab your pot, dutch oven, or slow cooker, and get ready for the best of the best.

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Why We Love It: This zuppa toscana soup is my new obsession. Inspired by the chill in the air, I’m whipping out my soup pot to throw together this hearty and savory Italian-inspired bowl of yum. I won’t spoil all of the deliciousness, but let’s just say Camille knew what she was doing with these flavors.

Hero Ingredient: The Italian sausage gives this soup an extra bit of protein and hearty texture.

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Why We Love It: When I think soup season, butternut squash is one of the first ingredients that comes to mind. It brings the perfect blend of sweet and savory to any dish, especially when paired with warm seasonal spices. A drizzle of coconut milk gives an added hint of sweet creamy indulgence that makes this bowl practically irresistible

Hero Ingredient: Top with pumpkin seeds for serious fall flavor.

Fire Roasted Tortellini Soup

Why We Love It: When I’m looking for a filling soup with plenty of bold flavors, this is the recipe I turn to. Fire-roasted tomatoes are a must for the perfect kick of heat, and cannellini beans add a bit of protein and substance.

Hero Ingredient: Choose fresh tortellini or pre-packaged—either form is delicious.

Vegetarian Chickpea Stew

Why We Love It: If you’re looking for hearty, this soup will be your go-to. It’s a one-pot dish that contains zesty fruits and veggies to enjoy when the weather gets cooler. A generous amount of herbs makes sure this pot is spiced and packed with flavor.

Hero Ingredient: Cauliflower is an underrated ingredient.

Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup

Why We Love It: If you haven’t yet entered your lentil area, start here. The curry powder and creamy coconut milk make for a spiced and satisfying, but not over-the-top, soup to enjoy as a side or lighter main.

Hero Ingredient: The orange zest is essential—try a spoonful and you’ll be a believer, too.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Why We Love It: If there’s one recipe you try off of this list, let it be this chicken tortilla soup. Restaurant quality doesn’t even begin to describe the incredible flavor. The topping possibilities are endless, but tortilla chips, a pinch of lime juice, and a dollop of sour cream are a few of my faves.

Hero Ingredient: Cilantro is a must-have for any Mexican-inspired dish.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Why We Love It: Simple and delicious, this chicken and rice soup will satisfy your cozy cravings without a ton of time in the kitchen. The best part? The chicken actually cooks on the bone in the soup, which gives your broth a rich flavor that you usually only get from homemade chicken stock.

Hero Ingredient: PLENTY of garlic please.

Big Green Immunity-Boosting Soup

Why We Love It: If your immune system is suffering during cold and flu season, this soup will get you back on your feet with plenty of nutrient-filled ingredients. When it comes to ingredients, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, kale, sugar snaps, celery, and broccolini are a few of our top picks, but feel free to throw in whatever is hanging around in your fridge.

Hero Ingredient: Ginger adds a bit of tangy spice to this soup.

One Pot Spicy Vegan Corn Soup

Why We Love It: This soup is warm and comforting, with a touch of creaminess and kick from jalapeños. Not fully blending your soup is also a little trick that this recipe relies on for a hearty and filling consistency.

Hero Ingredient: Poblano peppers are a key ingredient for this soup’s flavor.

Turmeric Chicken Immunity Soup

Why We Love It: I could go on and on about the benefits of turmeric, but if there’s one reason to invest in this ingredient, it’s the immune-boosting properties. Ginger adds an extra boost of anti-inflammatory goodness, and chicken acts as a balanced protein. What’s not to love?

Hero Ingredient: Sliced avocado is a healthy and yummy topping.

Rustic Skillet Tomato Basil Soup

Why We Love It: This skillet tomato basil soup isn’t just stunning, it’s also an innovative take on a classic soup we all know and love. Serve with fresh bread or a homemade grilled cheese to complement your creamy tomato flavors.

Hero Ingredient: Mozzarella cheese makes this soup even more savory.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Why We Love It: Curry and butternut squash, need I say more? It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, and a whole lot of cozy.

Hero Ingredient: Add a pinch of red pepper for an added kick.

Sweet Potato Soup

Why We Love It: I’m a sweet potato girl till I die, and this recipe is one that always finds its way onto my fall soup menu. It’s fairly simple and utilizes spices you likely have in your pantry, so there’s no excuse for not giving it a shot this season.

Hero Ingredient: Sweet potatoes galore.

Easiest Ever Black Bean Soup

Why We Love It: This black bean soup takes everything to love about this bean and turns it into a comforting dish that’s beyond simple to curate. Pro top: a bit of broth and aromatics go a long way when enhancing this soup’s flavor.

Hero Ingredient: Top with your favorite Mexican-inspired ingredients!

Roasted Cauliflower White Bean Soup With Rosemary

Why We Love It: Roasting your vegetables is a great way to up the flavor of any dish, but when added to soup, it brings a whole new flavor of smokey and sweet. White beans are the perfect complement to the cauliflower base and they help bring this soup to the next level.

Hero Ingredient: Rosemary is what sets this soup apart.

My Best Bookshelf Styling Tips Ever—Just in Time for Fall

When it comes to decorating the bookshelves in my home, my philosophy could be summed up as—less is more. It’s so easy for open shelves to become catch-alls for all kinds of random tchotchkes and way more books than I actually need to have out on display. We have a lot of built-ins in our home, and I want to genuinely love everything on them rather than blindly following trends or design rules. So, the onset of a new season is always the perfect opportunity to take a fresh approach to my shelves by adding some beautiful new finds—and removing some things in the process!

For today’s shelf restyling session, everything I used is from our partner Target, proving once again that a beautiful home does not have to be expensive or complicated. Read on to see how I transformed my shelves for fall, and shop everything below.

Neutral, Minimal Shelf Styling for Fall

Whenever I redesign my bookshelves to welcome a new season, I take a somewhat minimalist approach to spotlight the items I really love. The more clutter, the more my personal style gets lost in the mix! I want to achieve that feeling of abundance but with less stuff, and for my spaces to feel open, simple, and expansive. That means that every time I add something to my shelves, I also try to take away one item and stash it, donate it, or move it to somewhere else in my home.

Warm Minimalism

A minimalist aesthetic sometimes gets a bad rap as feeling cold or spare—and it absolutely doesn’t have to! My design approach is based on “warm minimalism,” meaning it incorporates lots of texture and materiality to make my home feel cozy. I’ve found that when I have less stuff, I often discover more joy in the things I do have. It’s an approach that doesn’t rely on trends; rather it’s slowly building a collection of pieces that speak to you, being thoughtful about each of your purchases.

Embrace the Seasons

Your bookshelves are a really great place to transition your home with the seasons, whether you want to make them feel lighter and brighter in the springtime or cozy them up for fall and winter. Today, I’m restyling my shelves for fall, bringing in some darker, moodier tones and lots of texture, while leaning into the minimal neutral color palette I love.

First, Lay It All Out

The first thing I do is take every single item off my shelves. Before we add anything back on, we’re going to lay all of my pieces on the ground or a table so I can see what I want to add back in, what needs to go, and then which new items I want to add to the mix. 

Then, Move Things Around

I want to reshuffle and try different items together to get a visual sense of which pieces pair well together before I start putting them back on the shelf. Once I’ve got my favorite groupings together, I start adding them to the shelves and experimenting. The key here is to move, arrange, shift, and play with the pieces until you feel good about the arrangement. There are no rules here, just tap into your gut and let your heart lead the way. 

If you start second-guessing yourself, one strategy that never lets me down is to step back and take a photo to see it all together. Something about seeing an image gives me a new perspective that shows me those pieces I want to rearrange for the final look. 

Create a Focal Point

On at least a couple shelves, use one larger statement object that draws the eye to it. This will anchor the entire scene and give the eye something to hold onto. 

Create Interest Through Height and Movement

My biggest tip is to play with varying heights and shapes for balance and asymmetry. If one shelf has a stack of books, on another shelf, you can lean them vertically. Make sure that the shelves next to each other aren’t too matchy. And while you definitely want those bigger statement pieces, you don’t want too many large objects or your shelves can quickly become heavy. The goal is to create lines of movement that keep the eye exploring, instead of becoming stagnant and stopping on just one shelf.

Think Outside the Books

Yes, bookshelves house books, but they’re also a place for decor and expressing your personal style. Wander around your house and collect a sculpture or art piece that you can lean on a shelf. Grab a beautiful ceramic bowl from the kitchen. Pull in a mirror from the bedroom. Get creative and balance form with function by adding items to your shelves for no other purpose than the fact that you love them.

Bring in Natural Materials

We all instinctively respond to the beauty of nature. The sound of the ocean or a river has been proven to change our brain waves’ frequency and put us in a more meditative state. At home, I’m always looking for ways to harness these wellness-boosting cues by choosing pieces for the house that bring the outside in. I usually stick to an earthy color palette, and I incorporate as many natural materials as possible–terra cotta ceramics, woven baskets, and wood furniture create a beautifully textured effect.

When You Think It’s Done—Remove Something!

A little restraint goes a long way to achieve a calming, minimalist aesthetic. It can be tempting to layer on all the family photos, books, and trinkets, but as Coco Chanel always said, ““Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off” and I think the same holds true for your shelves. Don’t overcomplicate it—trust your aesthetic and allow the pieces you most love to really shine. Simple is often best.

Let Them Evolve

Embracing the fact that our homes are ever-changing and never “done” relieves the pressure of making everything perfect from day one. I’d rather slowly choose the pieces that speak to me, even if that means leaving a little breathing space on my shelves until I find that just-right vase or piece of art. It’s not about impressing anyone, it’s about connecting with our authentic selves and letting our homes evolve right along with us.

You can shop the entire look on my Target storefront, where you’ll find all of my favorite Target buys for every space.

This blog post is sponsored by Target and contains affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Your support helps us continue providing helpful content.

14 Dining Table Centerpiece Ideas Fit for Any Occasion—and Any Time of Year

I like to think of the dining room table as the grounding piece of any home. Some may call it the living room—where many of us naturally gravitate around the television—or even the kitchen, where we may assist with prep or linger with a glass of wine. But the dining table is where everyone gathers with a common need: to satisfy our desire not only for food but for conversation and connection. That’s why, when it comes to dining table centerpiece ideas, I aim to create not simply a centerpiece consigned only to the dining area, but that serves as a statement for the rest of the home.

Ahead, we’re sharing ideas that span every style and aesthetic. From modern or traditional, to contemporary or vintage, these dining table centerpiece ideas are sure to add a little special spark to any space. Start sending out your dinner party invites—it’s time to give your dining table a glow-up.

Featured image from our interview with Brian and Anissa Zajac by Ashlee Fox.

Image by Michelle Nash

DIY a Floral Bouquet

PSA: You don’t need to shell out $100+ for a fancy, florist-crafted bouquet. While we all love treating our tables once and a while to the professional touch, a simple arrangement picked fresh from your garden will add a spark of beauty to any dining table. Bonus: It’s an opportunity to share what you’re growing, too.

Stack Some Books

Do you have a set of Penguin Classics that could be put to better use? Any set of vintage or otherwise pretty books will do. Simply stack a few books (I find three is the perfect number) and pair them with a candle or a small vase on top. It’s a refined way to add some height and interest to your table.

Image by Michelle Nash

Make an Edible Arrangement

Forgo the cantaloupe-and-honeydew combos of yesteryear and instead opt for something more refined. If you’re hosting, craft a cheeseboard that brings all your guest’s eyes—and appetites—to the table. It’s an easy and edible way to incorporate color and texture into your centerpiece.

Incorporate Varying Heights

I like to create interest and depth by combining two pieces of varying heights. A simple bowl-and-vase combo gives you the best of both worlds. Just be sure to keep the design and contents simple and streamlined. This idea can quickly go from contemporary to cluttered.

Image by Anastasiya Pudova

Keep It Minimal

Just a simple, ceramic bowl can do wonders as your centerpiece. You can leave it empty or fill it with fruit. Either way, opt for a bowl that’s simple but with enough aesthetic interest to keep the table from feeling bare. I love a simple, but stunning wood bowl or a ceramic piece to attract attention. (If it feels empty, add a grouping of single-hued citrus, like oranges or lemons.)

Utilize Vertical Space

This trick works wonders for smaller dining spaces. If you have a circular dining table that fits four or fewer, rather than overwhelm the surface area, select a slender vase with a few taller stems to draw the eye upwards. Just be sure to keep the arrangement minimal—you don’t want it to block your guests’ view.

Image by Michelle Nash

Set the Table

I love this idea for more formal dining areas. (Efficient party planners will love it as well.) Set the table with plates (go all-out with chargers, dinner, and salad plates), cloth napkins, and glassware. I’d just keep the silverware off the table and only add it once you’re ready to eat.

Create a Vignette

Arrange a few found objects to tell a story at your table. Ground the vignette with a tray or board to give the elements continuity. It’s a great way to incorporate creativity into your dining table setup.

Image by Belathée Photography

Line Up a Few Small Bouquets

To create an eclectic vibe, arrange a few DIY bouquets in makeshift vases. Repurposing ceramic jugs or tea tins works perfectly. Set the arrangements in a line to emphasize the length of your table, and go for varying heights to add a touch of whimsy.

Opt for Coziness

Sometimes, a formal dining table centerpiece isn’t the vibe. If you prefer a more casual feel, invite guests in with a candle, houseplant, and perhaps even an open cookbook to make them feel right at home.

Image by Anastasiya Pudova

Arrange a Bouquet of Dried Flowers

My sister opted for all dried flowers at her wedding and I was blown away: genius. Not only will they not droop from the heat or freeze from a cold rush of AC, but they’ll last as long as you’d like to display them. Cost-friendly and sustainable—we love.

Add Color

Some of the best dining table centerpiece ideas emphasize a contrast between the centerpiece and the table design itself. If you have a more neutral table—whether it’s wood or marble—I love to add a pop of color either with a maximalist vase or a bowl filled with bright, beautiful citrus or green apples.

Image by Michelle Nash

Begin With a Table Runner

For a simple, but statement-making addition to your table, lay down a table runner before adding more elements. It’s an easy way to anchor the space and works for both casual and more formal settings.

Display a Coffee Table Tray

Apply one of our favorite coffee table design tricks to your dining room. A tray will ground the table, providing the foundation for more layering opportunities. From there, you can add candles, a design book, or a small, sentimental trinket of your choice.

11 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time (And Exactly What to Do About It)

It’s no surprise: among feeling overwhelmed at work, round-the-clock stress, and news headlines that keep the concept of ‘doom-scrolling’ relevant, everyone’s asking: Why am I so tired all the time? Sure, the answer(s) might seem like a mystery, but when we start to take stock of our social media use, sleep habits, and other underlying factors, it becomes obvious that many of us aren’t prioritizing the restorative routines that keep us feeling well. The result? Throughout our day-to-day, we’re operating on empty.

In countless conversations with friends, co-workers, and family, I’ve noticed lately that when I ask how they’re doing, 75% of the time, their response is either tired, exhausted, or simply—beat. It’s almost as though being worn out is just another part of our busy, modern-day lives that we’re somehow supposed to get used to.

Featured image by Riley Blanks Reed.

Image by Michelle Nash

11 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time

When our bodies and minds are in sync and healthy, we should feel amazing and energized even when our schedules are full. However, as most of us know, that’s easier said than done, and there are several reasons why you may be feeling mysteriously tired. Or… perhaps it’s not so much a mystery. In fact, if we consider underlying health conditions, our sleep habits, sleep schedule, and other lifestyle factors, the reasons for our daytime sleepiness become all the more apparent.

Ahead, we’re diving into some of the most common symptoms and causes behind why you’re feeling so tired. Scroll on to discover the lifestyle interventions that will help you rediscover the energy you need to feel your very best. Good sleep hygiene—and the answers to your workday irritability—awaits.

Dehydration

Dehydration is one of the most common, but oftentimes overlooked, causes of fatigue. Even slight dehydration has been shown to cause moodiness and fatigue in women. Other signs can include headaches and inability to concentrate.

But take heart, it’s an easy fix! Just drink more fluid throughout the day! Women should consume, on average, 2.7 liters of fluids (or about 11.5 cups) a day. (Even more, if it’s hot outside or you’ve been exercising.) I try to keep a big bottle of water on my desk while I’m working or in the car when I’m driving, so I can continuously sip throughout the day. Bonus: you can also up your hydration through your diet. Discover the best hydrating foods, in case you’re tired of the 8-glasses-a-day age.

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Before you roll your eyes at how obvious this one is, think about it: are you really getting seven to eight hours every night? Because that’s the amount the National Sleep Foundation recommends most people need. Well actually, that’s the suggestion for people over age 64—they advise seven to nine hours for people between the ages 18 to 64. And if you’re not getting that much, then it’s probably the main cause of your fatigue.

Make an effort to get to bed earlier, and stick to a regular nighttime routine that encourages a restful night’s sleep.

Alcohol

Over the past few years, more and more research is coming out about alcohol’s effects on women’s bodies and minds. But among the impacts on mood, physical wellness, and mental health, it’s understood that alcohol has a negative effect on our sleep.

There’s a longstanding misconception that alcohol is a sleep aid. And while it can make us feel groggy, it disrupts the quality of our sleep. Drinking alcohol before bed causes us to miss out on crucial REM sleep (the most restorative state of sleep). As our contributing editor, Lauren Zielinski, wrote previously, “As the night goes on, there becomes an imbalance between slow wave or N-REM sleep and REM sleep resulting in shorter sleep duration and more sleep disruptions.”

So if you’re ready to ditch the feelings of tiredness throughout the day, consider swapping in a mocktail, sparkling water, or an after-dinner tea in place of your go-to glass of wine. Trust, this simple lifestyle switch can do wonders.

Image by Michelle Nash

Caffeine Misuse

Like alcohol, caffeine can impact how well we sleep at night. When we explored the topic of the optimal time to drink coffee, experts agreed that, in general, 9:30 a.m. is ideal. But of course, health isn’t one-size-fits-all. And because of that, it’s important to be in touch with the messages your body is sending you. If your daily cuppa is a non-negotiable, focus on developing a healthy caffeine routine by journaling about how the stimulant affects your energy and mood throughout the day—not to mention your sleep patterns.

As nutritionist Serena Poon shared with us, “Caffeine has a half-life of about five hours and its effects may be felt for up to 9.5 hours, so you would want to drink coffee at least five hours before you go to sleep. I usually recommend that my clients get their coffee in before 10 a.m.” So, to improve sleep, keep your anxiety at bay, and reap the benefits of drinking coffee in moderation, tune in with yourself to develop your own personal, healthy relationship with coffee.

Sleep Apnea

Sometimes people think they’re getting a good night’s sleep, but if you suffer from sleep apnea, you experience short bursts of wakefulness through the night caused by brief interruptions in your breathing. It’s also not a condition that should be taken lightly. The Mayo Clinic states that sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder because your breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. Since people often aren’t even aware that they have it, a doctor may order a sleep test to diagnose.

Not Fueling Your Body With the Right Food

Eating too little is an obvious issue, but eating the wrong foods can also be a major drain on your energy levels. Data shows that eating less fiber, more saturated fat, and more sugar throughout the day is linked to lighter, less restorative sleep. In one study, researchers tracked diet and sleep for a group of healthy adults over the course of five nights and found that indeed, food choices during the day affected sleep.

Including protein (eggs, fish, meat, lentils), healthy fats (avocado, nuts), and good-for-you-carbs (fruit, slower processed grains like quinoa and oats) will give you long-burning energy. Simple carbs and sugar will make you crash and burn. It’s important as well, to keep your blood sugar levels balanced with a diet that prioritizes glucose management. What’s more, you want to ensure that you’re fueling your body with the calories it needs. (Keep that metabolism revving!) Chat with you doctor to discuss a plan that support you best.

Anemia

In particular, iron deficiency anemia is one of the common reasons for fatigue in women and is more common during pregnancy. While initially, it can be so mild it often goes unnoticed, once the body becomes more deficient in iron and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify. Some of these symptoms include extreme fatigue, weakness, headaches/dizziness, cold hands and feet, and more. See your doctor for some blood tests on your iron levels then take a high-quality supplement, and incorporate iron-rich foods into your diet.

Not Getting Enough Exercise

It may seem counterintuitive, but anyone who regularly works out will tell you that breaking a sweat actually gives you more energy throughout the day. And The Mayo Clinic backs it up: “Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.” It just makes sense—when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.

I try to get my heart rate up every morning, and even better if it’s outside. (Sunshine is one of the most effective natural energizers!) On days when I skip my AM workout, I definitely feel more sluggish by the time the afternoon hits.

Hypothyroidism

Your thyroid controls how fast or slow your body converts fuel into energy, and hypothyroidism (a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain crucial hormones) means that it’s under-active which can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart disease. Fatigue is also a side effect of this condition. Head to the doctor for a blood test if you think you may need to get your thyroid checked.

Food Allergies or Sensitivities

If you have an undiagnosed food allergy or sensitivity or suffer from environmental allergies, you could be in a cycle of inflammation and fatigue also known as brain fog. Allergist and immunologist Mark Aronica, MD told Cleveland Clinic that this disconnected feeling is fatigue, and it’s caused by the inflammation that results when your body tries to counteract your allergy symptoms. Try eliminating certain foods to test your intolerance levels and see if your fatigue improves. (A simple elimination diet is a good start.) You can also see a functional medicine doctor who can run a full spectrum of tests to help you pinpoint any sensitivities.

Depression

Many people don’t realize that depression has physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, such as consistently experiencing low mood, exhaustion, a loss of appetite, or headaches, consider seeing a doctor or speaking with someone who can help. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service. Call: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

This post was originally published on July 26, 2016, and has since been updated. 

Au Revoir, Period Cramps! Eat These 10 Foods During That Time of the Month

Like clockwork, day one of your cycle begins. Before you can drag yourself out of bed, you anticipate the worst: period cramps. The thought of a pain-free period seems impossible, right? Not so fast. This goes without saying, but hormone health is vital to our well-being. Through every stage of life, hormones play a role. They regulate everything from our sex drive to our metabolism. Our hormones are powerful, but they’re equally sensitive. They’re influenced by a variety of lifestyle factors. One—or all—of these factors (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.) can throw your hormones out of balance. Over time, this imbalance takes a toll. Hello, period bloat, crippling cramps, and tender breasts. Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you may have an underlying hormone imbalance. Luckily, you can hack your way to a better period. Ahead, we’re digging into foods that help with period cramps. Because after all, food is medicine.

Feature image from our interview with Kate Waitzkin by Michelle Nash.

Disclaimer: Please use this as a guide only. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any condition. If you are experiencing any abnormal period symptoms, please seek help from a qualified healthcare professional.

What is the menstrual cycle?

As women, we’re conditioned to believe that having a period is a painful, frustrating, and shameful experience—but it shouldn’t be any of those things. In fact, my goal is to empower you to take your cycle into your own hands. Because knowledge is power.

Get to know your flow and your flow will become a seamless part of your life. These are the four main phases of the menstrual cycle:

  • Menstruation phase
  • Follicular phase
  • Ovulation phase
  • Luteal phase

Changes During the Menstrual Cycle

Each month—during the years between puberty and menopause—a woman’s body goes through a number of changes. In essence, to get ready for a possible pregnancy. This series of hormone-driven events is called the menstrual cycle. During each menstrual cycle, an egg develops and is released from the ovaries. The lining of the uterus builds up. If conception doesn’t happen, the uterine lining sheds during a menstrual period. Thus, the cycle starts again. The length of each phase can differ from woman to woman, and it can change over time.

Image by Suruchi Avasthi

Length of a Normal Period

This depends. For context, the length of your menstrual cycle is calculated from the first day of your period to the day before your next period starts. Menstrual flow might occur every 21-35 days and last 3-7 days. For the first few years after menstruation begins, long cycles are common. On average, a very healthy cycle looks like 28-30 days with bleeding lasting approximately five days. That said, every woman’s body is different.

Why Women Get Period Cramps

Menstrual cramps happen because of contractions in the uterus (which is a muscle). If it contracts too strongly during your menstrual cycle, it can press against nearby blood vessels. In turn, this briefly cuts off oxygen to the uterus. This lack of oxygen causes pain and cramping. Plus, hormone-like substances (called prostaglandins) trigger muscle contractions. Women with higher levels of prostaglandins typically experience more severe menstrual cramps. That’s one of the reasons why hormone balance is key!

Reasons for an Irregular Menstrual Cycle

As mentioned, every woman’s menstrual cycle is different. Some women get their period at the same time each month. Others are more irregular. Some women bleed more heavily or for a longer number of days than others. Your menstrual cycle can also change during certain times of your life. That said, many women find it helpful to track their periods. Eventually, the goal is to sync your cycle with your life. Any of these things can alter your menstrual cycle:

  • Birth control. The birth control pill may make your periods shorter and lighter, while on some pills, you won’t get a period at all.
  • Pregnancy. Missed periods are one of the most obvious first signs that you’re pregnant.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This hormonal imbalance prevents an egg from developing normally in the ovaries. PCOS causes irregular menstrual cycles and missed periods.
  • Uterine fibroids. These noncancerous growths in your uterus can make your periods longer and heavier than usual.
  • Eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders can disrupt your menstrual cycle and make your periods stop.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why a menstrual cycle may be irregular. If you sense your period is irregular (short, long, nonexistent, or you spot between cycles, please reach out to your healthcare provider, or let’s work together!).

Image by Michelle Nash

Cycle Syncing for a Better Period

Before we dive into foods that help with period cramps, let’s talk about cycle syncing. Cycle syncing is a practice whereby you adjust your diet and exercise routine (and even your social calendar!) around different phases of your menstrual cycle. In turn, this supports your hormones and optimizes both your mental and physical health. This concept was coined and trademarked by Alisa Vitti, Functional Nutritionist, HHC, AADP. Once you determine where you are in your cycle, you can begin cycle syncing.

Seed Cycling to Regulate Your Menstrual Cycle

Speaking of cycle syncing, have you heard of seed cycling? In essence, seed cycling is a growing health trend, claimed to balance hormones, boost fertility, and ease symptoms of menopause. It involves eating flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds at different times of the month. Theoretically, seed cycling either enhances or inhibits the production of estrogen and progesterone in the body. In turn, balancing and optimizing your hormones, along with relieving symptoms due to hormonal imbalance.

The easiest way to seed cycle is via Funk It Wellness. They do all the hard work for you. No need to buy seeds and grind them at home! As you can guess, these seeds are included as foods that help with period cramps.

10 Foods That Help With Period Cramps

Without further ado, these are the top 10 foods that help with period cramps—plus delicious recipes to spark creativity in the kitchen. These ingredients are easy to digest, anti-inflammatory, help balance blood sugar, and more.

Bananas

Bananas contain vitamin B6 and a healthy dose of potassium, which can help relieve your bloating and cramping symptoms. They also contain magnesium and calcium. That’s three out of four nutrients you need to ease muscle cramps! No wonder bananas are a popular, quick choice for cramp relief.

Recipe: Healthyish Chocolate Chunky Monkey Banana Bread

Dark, Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are rich in calcium and magnesium. Now’s the time to add kale, spinach, or broccoli to your plate. Eating leafy greens may also help with menstruation cramps, as studies show that eating foods high in calcium can help relieve pain from periods.

Recipe: The Best Simple Green Salad

Lemons

Lemons, like all citrus, are rich in vitamins—particularly, vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from your food into your bloodstream and tissues. Because you’re losing blood during your period, it may be helpful to have some extra vitamin C. Lemons also contain fiber, which makes them a great food for preventing muscle spasms.

Recipe: Lemony Spring Pasta Salad with Olives, Artichokes, and Bacon

Lentils

Lentils are rich in fiber and iron. They’re also a great source of protein for vegetarians. While menstruating, iron levels take a dip, so eating iron-rich foods can help counteract this drop. Plus, legumes are rich in thiamine, which can be powerful in fighting period pain.

Recipe: Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup

Oats

Ease cramps from the moment you wake up. Oats are delicious and nutritious, whether you enjoy them as oatmeal, in (breakfast) cookie form, or in a healthy batch of homemade granola. Not only are they full of fiber—which helps you feel full for longer after eating—but they’re also a good source of zinc and magnesium. Magnesium, specifically, helps relax blood vessels and regulate serotonin. 

Recipe: Baked Banana Cashew Oatmeal

Eggs

Eggs contain vitamins B6, D, and E, which all work together to fight off the symptoms of PMS. They’re also packed with protein, which is an added nutritional bonus to aid in balanced blood sugar.

Recipe: Spring Rice Salad

Ginger

No surprise, here! Ginger is a culinary and medicinal powerhouse. Today, it’s commonly recommended as a home remedy for a variety of ailments, including menstrual cramps. Because it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, it may help with both pain and bloating associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Recipe: Get Figgy With It Smoothie

Dark Chocolate

If you needed an excuse to eat chocolate on your period, this is it. Dark chocolate may help ease menstrual cramps due to its high magnesium content. Magnesium helps relax muscles and may stop the production of compounds that signal cramps. Copper, another nutrient found in dark chocolate, may also play a role.

Recipe: Adaptogenic Hot Chocolate

Walnuts

Walnuts help with period pain relief, thanks to their high omega-3 content. The anti-inflammatory fats tackle cramps naturally, so keep a bowl on hand for convenient healthy snacking, adding to a bowl of yogurt, tossing in a salad, or stirring into a grain bowl for a quick dinner side dish.

Recipe: Apple Walnut Salad

Wild-Caught Salmon

Like walnuts, wild-caught salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is also one of the few foods with vitamin D! This fatty fish helps with PMS symptoms. It’s ideal to eat salmon the week before your period. It also has anti-inflammatory effects, releasing muscle tension, keeping your cramps in check, and reducing bloating.

Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Stone Fruit Salsa

This post was originally published on May 2, 2022, and has since been updated.